Childhood Asthma and Breast Feeding

Childhood Asthma and Breast Feeding

For the first 6 months of a child’s life breast feeding provides all the nutrients a baby needs. The antibodies in breast milk protects against infections. Did you know that breast feeding can even reduce a newborn babies risk of developing eczema, childhood diabetes and even leukemia. Many researchers also believe that breast feeding can prevent asthma, however there are many who also believe that it causes asthma.

Scientific Beliefs

1. Breast milk majorly helps to develop and protect a babies lungs. The reason breast milk protects against infection is that when a baby is feeding, tiny amounts of milk enter the airways and the lungs. This in turn allows antibodies to reach the respiratory track, which protect against infection. It is the fatty acids in the milk that help protect against lung infections. Breast milk is believed by many researchers to prevent wheezing which is the main symptom of asthma.

Research Carried Out

2. In New Zealand a study of 1037 three year old children was carried out. They were assessed every 2 – 5 year between the ages of 9 and 26. Records of breast feeding was kept and asthma outcomes where documented.

Another study was carried out in Western Australia. This study involved monitoring 2,602 children up to the age of 6 years, where records of breast feeding where kept.

Research Findings

3. It was discovered that those children who where breastfed for at least 4 weeks doubled the risk of a diagnosis of asthma and those who suffered from it suffered from it well into mid childhood. Therefore it was believed that breast feeding did not protect children from developing asthma and may possibly increase the risk.

The study from western Australia showed that babies who were fed formula before the first 4 months of life where at a higher risk of developing asthma when compared to babies who where breast fed. This study indicated that babies who are breast fed are protected against respiratory tract problems and infections that usually lead to asthma.

Conflicting Results

4. The conflicting result which leaves us not knowing what to believe may be a result of the differences in the assessment duration and procedure of each study. Other factors which can influence whether a child later develops asthma may be due to low birth weight, the age and smoking habits of the mother and environmental factors such as dust and pollen.

Expert Advice

5. The connection between breast feeding and childhood asthma is inconclusive. However the expert in the world health organisation recommend that you breast feed your child up to at least the age of 6 months. They still believe that breast feeding is the most effective method to ensure highest level of your child’s health.